Gadget Dad – Father’s Day Gift Suggestions
First in a Series
You might not be able to afford this gift for your deal ol’ Dad, but perhaps you can chip in with your siblings. I road tested one of their units, and it is an ideal blend of running and biking with none of the negatives associated with either. Back in the day I trained and ran a marathon, but I later stopped running when I heard too many tales of bad knees. I love biking, but if I backslide in my frequency of riding, I find the creaky body complains about a sore butt, achy neck and tired tailbone. As a result, like millions of others, I have been relegated to an indoor elliptical machine. The scenery is boring, but at least I am not crashing my bones. ElliptiGO answers all these issues, and most Dads will probably agree. Moms too.
The ElliptiGO looks like something from a Dr Seuss story, and that is a compliment. By combining the locomotion of an elliptical machine with the mobility of a bike, the ElliptiGO gives you a sense of freedom unlike any other equipment. Developed by three triathletes in the leafy beach town of Solana Beach, the ElliptiGO is gaining traction far beyond its San Diego origins. Before setting out on my maiden voyage, I was given a tour of the company’s operation. Suspended from the eaves are the first 3 prototypes, and co-founder Bryce Whiting humbly admits a goal is to see any of the three prototypes on display in the Smithsonian. The initial model uses an extended bike frame, repositions the chain into a vertical arrangement and uses wooden slats for drive arms. The second model utilizes a custom designed frame, with far more elegant curves. The third model uses square and round tubing, and brings the design to fruition. The wheels grew progressively smaller, affording more stability with the lower center of gravity.
Currently, ElliptiGO comes in 2 models: the 3C ($1800) and the 8S ($2500). The former is better for flatter terrain, offering 3 gears for hills to about 5% incline. The latter offers 8 gears, providing more options for hills, to a range of approximately 25% incline. For storage and transport, the 3C sports a removable handlebar whereas the 8S has a foldable handlebar.
Naturally, given the extravagant price, I was rather skeptical about the ElliptiGO. How much better could one of these things be? Elliptical machines have fallen in price and a good mountain or road bike is available in a range of prices. As Bryce introduced me to the evolution of the company and its signature machine, I became more intrigued. Indeed, by the time he showed me the ease with which you get rolling on the ElliptiGO, I was hooked. You put one foot in the drive arm, push off with the other foot and start gliding. The sensation initially is a bit like riding a kid’s scooter; you are standing up, rolling along and holding on to a handlebar. But once you start the leg movement familiar to elliptical users, the bike gains momentum and you really start grinning. The drive arms are designed to rise to a higher angle on the backstroke (think of the angle your foot makes when you finish a stride, far more vertical than a standard elliptical machine).
Although the ElliptiGO does not afford much of an upper body workout compared to an elliptical machine, you never get much of an upper body workout running either. I found the ElliptiGO workout far more enjoyable than an elliptical or a bike.
ElliptiGO is available at a growing number of retailers (currently around 160 in the US) and in an unintended stroke of marketing genius, each new ElliptiGO on the road is like a moving billboard. Heads turned quizzically as I cruised along, eliciting grins in my wake. Dad will be enthused to cause the same.
If your Dad is crazy about capturing video at all possible opportunities, this gizmo might be just the thing. The world’s smallest LCD screen clips over the lens of a pair of sunglasses, and a tiny camera is positioned in the bridge of the sunglasses. A series of control buttons are arrayed across each of the temples, along with ports for a mini-USB connection and a micro SD card slot. After charging the unit, I gave it a go. Ideally, I should have used it when road testing the ElliptiGO, but that would have been an overly ambitious combination of two new gadgets. Playback is relatively easy, but getting your eyes to focus on the screen an inch away takes some practice. It was quickly evident that a very steady head provides the best video, especially when the playback occurs through a standard TV or computer. Sufficient light is required for decent video, which is a relatively low resolution (640*480 VGA in technical terms). I found that the microphone is not ideal, which means laying on a new audio track is often the best way to a clip you want to share. The embedded memory provides about an hour of recorded video, so budding Cecil B DeMille’s will need to get a micro SD card. The package comes with interchangeable clear lenses, which helps if you are shooting indoors. But the camera needs plenty of light for viable video. I discovered that the LCD screen can be removed when filming, which certainly restores peripheral vision. The entire kit comes with connector cords, all in a nice zippered hard shell case, but be sure you have a real Gadget Dad before you spring these on him. This is undoubtedly the smallest audio / video setup on the market, so if your Dad likes playing secret agent and is OK with low fi audio and video, he will love it.
If your Dad is more low tech, and perhaps has a wee bit of the redneck mentality of relaxation, this gizmo might do the trick. For $30 you get a visor cap with a huge bill and fold down flaps, inside of which is a magnifying lens and pouch for a portable player like an iPod. By shutting out external distractions (like light and sound), you sorta do get swallowed up in your choice of video. The manufacturer touts using it to watch sports while sitting with your kid who is watching cartoons on the TV, or using it while camping, or on a commute. For the dad who is comfortable in looking dorky, this fits the…bill.
Jack Black Sun Guard Sunscreen
Even if you are using TV Hat, or any type of sun protection, a smart move is always a sunscreen on the skin. Getting the right combination of protection and performance is not easy, but Jack Black gets it right. With no apparent relation to the corpulent actor of the same name, this sunscreen is oil free and water resistant. I used it for both of my strenuous rides on the ElliptiGo, and I was pleased that the sweat resistant formula did not run into my eyes. With an SPF of 45, the formula is a blend of healing botanicals, vitamins and organic ingredients. The UVB and UVA protection is effective via non-irritating zinc oxide. It is calculated that 80% of sun damage comes from incidental exposure, so this protection should not be saved for trips to the beach. I liked the performance of this product, and I am a Nazi when it comes to sun block. $20/4oz.